The quest for 50 wins lives on! In a game that saw the scorching hot Houston Rockets visiting, the Spurs collectively iced down the #1 scoring team in the league. The AT&T Center was electric Sunday afternoon and that energy carried it’s way onto the floor.
From the moment the ball was tipped, there was almost immediately a different feel to this Spurs team. Jalen Rose might have actually said it best at the half: the Silver and Black played with a resounding sense of pride Sunday afternoon. When this group of guys play with that type of tenacity, they can fight toe to toe with anybody.
- This might be the first time since maybe December that we’ve seen Rudy Gay on the attack like he was Sunday afternoon. The veteran scorer looked comfortable running the offense through him, as he torched the Rocket wings lined up against him. What really impressed me the most was his ability to get to the rim against some proven 3&D players like PJ Tucker and Trevor Ariza. Many times this season, we have seen #22’s success depend on whether his shot is falling from the perimeter, so it was great to see him put the ball on the deck a little bit. When he is actively looking for his shot, it turns the Spurs into a whole new animal. Gay’s prolific scoring provides the team with the fire power needed against the league’s top teams.
- Tony Parker appears very comfortable in this matchup. For as many problems as the Rockets caused the Spurs earlier this season, TP has been a rare bright spot in the divisional match up. He only logged only 15 minutes of playing time, but his awareness and versatility make him a key piece in what San Antonio wants to do against the Rockets. Houston has been picked apart by midrange shooters and slashers this season, and despite his reduction in minutes, the 34 year old Frenchmen still has the ability to do both at a high level. I expect big things out of the legendary point guard if these squads wind up seeing each other in May.
- If these teams meet for the second straight year in the post season, LaMarcus Aldridge is going for 30 and 15 every time he touches the floor. I know he missed some makeable looks in the first half, but there is not a single guy on that Houston roster who can check him in the high post or on the block. The former Longhorn forces a double every time he touches the ball, and against the Rockets it makes their defense crumble. Time and time again Aldridge either passed out of the trap which scrambled the Houston defense, or buried a turnaround jumper before the help defender could bother him. He looked invincible in stretches, as the Rockets’ severe lack of size allowed him to attack when and where he wanted.
- For the second straight game, you could see Dejounte Murray played with a chip on his shoulder. He attacked James Harden every chance he could, and also helped Kyle Anderson and Danny Green harass the Beard defensively. Murray is still progressing as a defender, and his wingspan and active hands already set him apart.
- It is so fun to watch Manu Ginobili at this stage of his career. The 40 year old legend can still manipulate the game in so many ways that could easily go unnoticed. Sometimes it’s as simple as a back screen or a jab step followed by a skip pass, but these plays are invaluable to a basketball team like San Antonio which struggles to consistently score the basketball. I’ve also enjoyed watching his chemistry with Aldridge develop. The Argentine has done a great job of finding him in high lows, pick and rolls, and even getting him switched onto smaller defenders.
- Danny Green was lights out defensively against Harden. I also thought the 3&D sharpshooter did a great job spreading the floor offensively and responded well when his defender chased him off of the line. I’ve noted it a few times throughout the season, but Danny’s continued growth as a player is highly respectable for a guy who’s an NBA champion and is in his ninth year in the league. I’m expecting big things from the former Tarheel in the postseason.
- Patty Mills is often cringe-worthy in transition. There were three possessions in the first half that were essentially wasted due to his lack of confidence around the rim. His hesitation derailed the offense for a bit before halftime and allowed the Rockets to stay within striking distance as the second quarter came to a close. Thankfully he made up for that treacherous stretch with his scoring blitz in the fourth quarter that put the nail in the Rockets’ coffin. His 8 points were highlighted by two huge off the dribble threes in the pick and roll. That is something that has been severely missed in this roller coaster ride of a season. If Mills can build off of this performance down the stretch, we could see a streaking basketball team that no one is going to want a piece of come playoff time.